Frenkie de Jong was subject to shocking abuse from Barcelona fans as he arrived at the club’s training complex on Wednesday as he continues to be linked with a move away.
Manchester United have been chasing the Dutch midfielder throughout the summer and agreed a £73million fee with Barca last month, though De Jong has so far snubbed a move to Old Trafford.
The Dutchman is happy and settled in Barcelona and not keen to swap the sunshine and beaches of Catalonia for Manchester, while he is also unwilling to drop down to the Europa League.
There is also an issue over deferred wages Barca still owe to De Jong, which amounts to around £14m – a tab the Catalan club want any buying club to pick up.
United’s inability to convince De Jong or resolve the wage issue has opened the door to Chelsea in recent weeks, with the west Londoners now also close to agreeing a fee with Barca.
However, De Jong still harbours significant reservations about leaving Camp Nou for the Premier League and relayed as much to Chelsea co-owner Todd Boehly recently, reiterating his desire to stay and fight for his place at Barca.
But the situation is now threatening to turn ugly, with Barca cranking up the pressure on De Jong to leave and even informing the midfielder last month that they had ‘found evidence of criminal actions’ over the contract extension he signed in October 2020 – when a different board were in charge.
Barca also cannot register some of their new signings until they have sold more players and lowered their wage bill, with supporters now beginning to turn on the players who won’t leave.
Martin Braithwaite – another player who has refused a pay cut – was booed by the Camp Nou crowd earlier this week as the squad were presented to supporters, and now De Jong has also been subjected to abuse.
When he drove into Barcelona’s Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper training ground on Wednesday there were fans lining the entrance who booed and jeered as he approached in his car.
In a video from Spanish newspaper Sport, repetitive shouts of, ‘Take a pay cut, b***h!’ can also be heard from some especially hostile Barcelona supporters, who appear to have fully bought into the board’s narrative surrounding the situation.
Now that fans have started to turn on him for simply wanting his contract honoured, De Jong may have pause to reconsider whether he still wants to remain at the club.
Barcelona’s board, though, have no intention of paying him the £14m he is owed – in part because it would hamper their attempts to balance the books – and that remains a big stumbling block.
United have lost optimism over a deal but Chelsea are still pushing, though they will likely have to offer De Jong a big signing-on fee and larger-than-normal salary to compensate for any possible loss of earnings – and persuade him that his future lies in west London.
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